Higher education too important to fail

— We may as well call it “Edu-pay-tion,” as far as many prospective students are concerned. The cost of a college degree has risen 1,120 percent since 1978, but wages have increased a mere six percent during that same period. The national collective college debt is more than $1 trillion. We have college grads mired in $29,000 of debt, on average, while they are looking for jobs that do not exist. Parents and grandparents of those grads are also saddled with much of that debt, which is immune to bankruptcy, and they will have to make the payments until they die.

What have we gotten ourselves into?

The greed that accompanied those easy-to-obtain, just-sign-here college tuition loans, borders on immoral. Financial institutions were like Black Friday crowds, trampling one another to get in on the act. New lending operations cropped up every day, and new proprietary colleges and universities opened their doors throughout the nation, advertising their degrees and easy to get loans for tuition. What would happen if students and parents just stop paying on that $1 trillion debt? Who would pay then? Bingo! I can see another bailout coming, and this time it will be for student loans.

Ethical implications exist on both sides— the lenders and the borrowers. But no matter what side you take the problem is still here and is looming as yet another bubble about to burst in the near future. As many schools are raising their tuition costs, despite the ominous specter of a meltdown, many prospective students are opting out of their plans to attend college. But where does that leave them in today’s “jobless market”? Sounds like a catch-22.

This nation trails many other countries in various fields of education, and we will find ourselves even further behind if this tuition bubble is not deflated very soon. Our young people will not be able to compete on a national level, much less on an international level, without access to adequate, relevant and higher educational experiences. In other words, the famous mantra, “Leave no child behind” will soon become, “Help every child catch up.”

We have smart bombs and dumb children. We have the ability to kill people with drones without even seeing them, but we cannot— but will not— provide adequate education for our children whom we see every day. We have spent trillions destroying and rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, but a meager amount to secure the future of our own youth. Now we are sending money to Ukraine, along with all the other places to which our dollars flow, while our young people slip further down the education scale. Our priorities are all screwed up.

This is not to say that money alone will solve all of our education problems, but more of it, pointed in the right direction, sure would make a positive difference in our current educational crisis— and that’s exactly what it is. Simply throwing money at a problem only results in it being caught by folks for whom it is not meant. The students are at the bottom of the food chain and see little or no benefit from money meant to help them.

Meanwhile, as we teach our children how to take tests rather than how to use their critical and analytical thinking skills, we are doing them a gross disservice. And similar to what we saw with the sub-prime housing debacle, if we continue to make financial institutions even wealthier by allowing them to make outlandish loans to college students who cannot afford to repay them, we will soon have another piper to pay.

So what do we do? Prospective students should start looking at less expensive alternatives to attain their college degrees. For instance, go to a local school and live at home (I know that’s a tough one, but it beats having to go back to live with your parents when you graduate); stop treating your student loan like it’s a free monthly check that you can use to buy everything but educational necessities; and, here’s a novel idea: work while you are in college. It may not be the most glamorous job, but if it helps pay your tuition and keep you out of thousands in debt, that’s a good thing.

Government and financial institutions worked so well when it came to the bailouts. Banks were too big to fail and had to be helped with $780 billion or so. Aren’t our children too important to fail? Maybe they are not; at least not in this country, huh? Anyway, if they care to listen, banks, proprietary schools, and government officials should get together and stop the madness that has led to $1 trillion in student loan debt while graduates cannot get commensurate employment and cannot compete in a global society.

We have to stop education from turning into “educ-pay-tion.”

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website: www.blackonomics.com.

Romancing the vote, but not the dollar

— It’s so silly for black people to fight over the Democrats and Republicans when it is counterproductive for us to be enslaved by either party. Between the late 1800s and the early 1900s we voted nearly 100 percent Republican. Now we vote nearly 100 percent Democrat. What has that gotten us besides being ignored and taken for granted? Do we have real political power?

We have been instructed and admonished to be independent and only give our votes to individuals who act in our best interests, but we have failed miserably in response to that advice by doing the exact opposite. It makes no sense to give virtually all of our support to one political party and receive patronizing crumbs in return.

To a large extent, our problem is centered on our romance with the vote itself. We hold our ability to cast a ballot in such high esteem, sadly, as though that alone will solve our problems. Not so. Voting is simply the first step, not the final step. Without power behind our precious votes, we are a paper tiger, helpless to effect positive change for ourselves in the political arena. The key word in the last sentence is ourselves, because we have certainly helped make things better for other groups.

So, with our political predicament in mind, here are my thoughts: If we are unwilling to vote as independent critical thinkers, we should stay out of the voting booth. If we are not inclined, on a local and national level, to collectively leverage our voting power, then all we will ever have is the power to vote. If all we are going to do is vote, there is no need to vote at all.

Now before some of you get your jaws tight, just think about all the energy black folks have put into voting. Think of all the sacrifices we have made, all the mistreatment we have suffered and even this month, as we remember “Bloody Sunday,” how we are still fighting to keep our precious vote. Compare all of that to what we have gained by merely casting our votes and then going back to sleep. We have treated elections like popularity contests and euphoric exercises that only gives someone a “job” for as long as they want it, whether they produce or not. We have misused and abused our precious vote by being uninformed on issues and candidates alike, and by being unwilling to do anything except vote for whatever or whomever the party tells us to. That’s sheer nonsense. If our vote is so sacrosanct, why do we mistreat it?

As much as we say we need “power,” both political and economic, our actions belie our words. Claud Anderson, in his book, “Black Labor White Wealth” wrote, “…groups aspiring to gain political power can only obtain and use it if they have economic power as well…Voting rights have pacified blacks by allowing them to make choices but never decisions.”

If voting alone gave us power, we would not have heard “You lie!” during the State of the Union Address; if it gave us power, Darrell Issa would not have dissed one of our most respected and respectable congressmen, Elijah Cummings; and Paul Ryan would not have uttered his ridiculous comments about “inner city” men. Voting is part of the process that, if supported by economic power, leads to real political power.

The late Amos N. Wilson, an author and assistant professor of psychology at City University of New York, wrote, “The idea that [blacks] can exercise effective power, political or otherwise, without simultaneously exercising economic power is a fantasy…In the absence of access to and influence on relevant government centers of power, the absence of an ‘independent’ political party, and the absence of an influential, wealthy, nationalistic upper or leading class [blacks] are unable to effectively secure [our] special interests.”

For example, Wilson also said, “We have a leadership that talks about income equality. A man can have $1 million of land and get an income of $10,000, and another get an income $10,000 working for someone else. Even though they have equal incomes, they are not equally wealthy.”

Politics leads to incomes; economics leads to wealth. That’s why back in 1998 I coined the term, “Blackonomics” rather than “Blackolitics.”

Brother Tarikh Tehuti Bandele wrote in 2006, “Indeed, black people should register to vote, but not to become lackeys for [any] party…voting, by itself, should never be looked upon as the ultimate solution. Voting is but a tactic, a strategy, or a means to an end…far too many are promoting the idea that all black people need to do is vote, and heaven is just around the corner.”

We want “voting power” but we settle for the “power to vote.” We fight for the “right to vote” but we fail to “vote right.” Voting is a means to gain political power, not an end that simply allows one to participate in the act. If we fail to follow that truism, we may as well not vote.

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website: www.blackonomics.com.

CBC to invest $5M with black banks

In a recent article I posed the question, “Hey, Chocolate City, where da money at?” Well, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) gave a resounding answer to that inquiry on Tuesday, September 17, 2013. Starting a new campaign to strengthen the economy in black communities, the organization, under the leadership of board chairman, Congressman Chaka Fatah, (D-PA), announced it would invest $5 million with black banks, “as part of a broader effort to increase the availability of loans for businesses and individuals in African-American communities.” I applaud the CBCF for this initiative; it is a great example of how we can leverage the dollars over which we have control and stewardship.

Congratulations to the leadership group: A. Shuanise Washington, president and CEO, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; Michael Grant, president, National Bankers Association

(NBA); B. Doyle Mitchell, Jr., board chair, National Bankers Association and president, Industrial Bank; Russell Kashian, professor, Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin Whitewater; and Ron Busby, Sr., CEO, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.

The CBCF said here’s our money, and our members are doing the right thing with it.

“I commend the CBCF for its initiative and commitment to launch what could – and should be— a movement across this nation,” said Grant of the NBA. “They initiated this effort without being prodded, begged, or persuaded. They did it of their own volition and understanding of how this economy works, as well as the very important aspect of building businesses and strengthening the asset base of black owned banks. We cannot thank them enough.”

Of course, after my kudos come my questions. As commendable as the actions of the CBCF are, they do bring forth questions in my mind regarding other institutions, organizations and associations. I want to start with the NAACP because Ben Jealous recently announced his resignation, and while doing so lauded the organization’s tremendous increase in fundraising under his leadership. Under Jealous, the donor base grew from 16,422 in 2007, just before he started, to 132,543 last year. Revenue has grown from $25.7 million in 2008 to $46 million in 2012, according to him.

As we know, $46 million is a lot of money. How much is deposited or invested in black banks? With both Harbor Bank and Industrial Bank in the immediate vicinity of NAACP’s national headquarters, I hope most, if not all, of those funds are already, nestled away and doing great work in those two fine black banks. The CBCF had $5 million and they did the right thing with it. Has the NAACP done the same with its $46 million?

Hey, Marc Morial and the National Urban League, you’re next. Where is your money? How many millions do you control? Any black banks listed on your financial statements? I know there must be, in light of the fact that you work hard to establish new businesses and create more jobs. Surely the CBCF has nothing on you, right? This is not a trivial or unimportant question. Here in my hometown, in 1996-99, a black-owned credit union was started just across the street from our local Urban League office building. Although asked to do so, the Urban League did not have an account at the credit union. I know this is 2013 and we are much more enlightened and conscious nowadays, but “I’m just saying,” you know?

All right Al Sharpton, you’re up next. How many millions does the National Action Network (NAN) have in black-owned banks? With your clarion call for, “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” surely NAN has taken the economically positive step of keeping its funds in banks that can help create those much-needed jobs. I know your thing is politics, but politics is supported, guided, and controlled by economics, so I have no doubt that you have already carved out a niche in a black bank and allowed your money to do good work for our people.

So what about the rest of our black organizations? Rainbow PUSH Coalition, SCLC, Masons, Shriners, fraternities, sororities, social clubs, Links, black entertainers, black rappers, black athletes and black business owners? Are you even considering putting some of your millions into black banks? Between Jay-Z and P. Diddy, who recently talked about losing a million dollars to another rapper, that’s a few hundred million right there. Add LeBron, Kobe, Tiger, Serena and Venus; what an impact they could make on a black bank balance sheet. Get the picture?

Finally, black churches, where is your money? Is any of it sitting in a black bank? Churches that are domiciled in cities where black banks exist should all have accounts at those banks/and or credit unions. Can you hear me talking, Durham, North Carolina, where the oldest black bank is located? There is also Internet banking; not denying the importance of a local bank relationship, but some church funds could be invested in an out-of-town bank.

This is too easy, brothers and sisters, and it’s all about a Biblical principle: Good stewardship. It’s now time for the altar call. Let the black church say, Amen!

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer about economic empowerment for black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website: www.blackonomics.com.

Detroit: Death certificate or rebirth?

Will the largest city in history to file bankruptcy receive a death certificate, or will this action result in a new birth certificate for the Motor City? Of course, a city as large and as well situated as Detroit is will not die. Already there are plans for a $400 million hockey stadium, despite all the tales of woe and danger put forth by various media. All things considered, will Detroit’s majority population remain black and will black people play a significant role in its economic rebirth?

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James Clingman, NNPA columnist

The answer lies in the hearts of black Detroiters and in their will to do what is necessary to gain ownership and control of a portion of that city’s asset base.

Detroit’s recent history shows why it is important for blacks in Motown to get on the case when it comes to economic empowerment and self-determination.

In 2004, I participated in an effort, under the leadership of Claud Anderson, to develop and build a black economic enclave. I remember how excited I was at the prospect of Detroit stepping up and leading way for other cities to build similar enclaves and finally move toward true economic freedom.

However after our conference, I also remember the black mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, and a couple of black city councilpersons, supported by some in the Detroit print media, coming out against the plan calling it “divisive,” “separatist,” and “scary.” I recall several articles in which one black councilperson said it would be “a suicidal form of ‘reverse racism’ and a bad deal for Detroit.”

This same person was quoted as saying, “African Town will actually create a negative environment that will drive businesses from Detroit and create a climate of fear that will eliminate Detroit from serious consideration as a location to develop or grow a business.” She concluded, “I am not a hyphenated American. I am an American. This council needs to understand that, so we can make decisions that don’t make Detroit an American embarrassment.”

Imagine that. Detroit would have been an “American embarrassment” if Africa Town had been developed. What a silly statement. I wonder what she and others think Detroit is now that they refused to develop the enclave. Another question: Why isn’t Detroit called an American embarrassment because it has a Greek Town, a China Town, a Polish Town, a Mexican Town, and even a “Corktown” in the midst of an 85 to 90 percent black or African populated city? For a black person, in a nearly all black city, to label black economic empowerment suicidal and embarrassing is absolutely ridiculous.

Let’s move on to the current status of the Motor City. It has filed bankruptcy, it still has the poverty and crime, it still has the dilapidated and abandoned houses, and maybe even some political corruption is still going on. However, the Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, a black man says, “Detroit can rise again,” in his recent Wall Street Journal article. I know there are some Detroiters who don’t like the governor’s decision to appoint Orr, and they may have a good argument against it but that’s not my fight; again, this is about black economic empowerment in Detroit, emergency manager or not. If Orr is right, will black people rise along with the city of Detroit?

Two intelligent and savvy guys, James Craig and Odis Jones, both Detroiters who held the positions of police chief and economic development director, respectively, in Cincinnati, returned to Detroit recently. Craig took over the police department and Jones is the CEO of the Detroit Public Lighting Authority. I have to believe they know something positive is taking place, having left pretty good jobs in Cincy to go back home to a bankrupt city. As far as I know, no one rowed out to the Titanic to get on board when it was sinking.

Dan Gilbert, the billionaire owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Quicken Loans, and now Casino mogul, owns so much land in Detroit that it is measured in square miles rather than acres. Surely he knows something, too. The hotel industry is flourishing, according to a recent news report they must know something, too.

I hope and pray that black Detroiters know what’s up and will get engaged in the economic growth of their city, and show us how it’s done. In 1968, Detroit icon, Albert Cleage said, “…This marks a new day for black people… The black community… must control its own destiny… this means political control of all areas in which black people are a majority… Politics is only one aspect, however. It is also necessary for blacks to have economic control of their community. In Detroit we are trying to invent strategies for this, such as the development of co-op retail stores, co-op buying clubs, co-op light manufacturing, co-op education…These ventures will give black people a sense of their economic possibilities and a realization of their need for economic training.” Cleage was right then— and he still is.

Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer about economic empowerment for black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website: www.blackonomics.com.